Did you know that cervical cancer is a disease that is 90 per cent preventable?
As regional coordinator of the Cervical Screening Initiatives (CSI) Program for the Avalon region, I’m part of a full team of individuals who work together across the province to keep current in the latest cervical cancer research and trends. In turn, we educate and encourage as many women as possible to get Pap tests.
The program, managed by Eastern Health and overseen and supported by all regional health authorities, aims to raise awareness about the importance of Pap tests among women as the best way to prevent cervical cancer.
Sometimes, it can be challenging to reach women who don’t get Pap tests, or who don’t get them regularly, so we have to find creative ways to communicate with women – whether they live in urban or rural areas. The CSI Program tries to reach women wherever they congregate, whether it is at a salon/spa, bingo group or church event!
In 2012, the CSI Program introduced Women’s Health Days, occasions where we invite women to come to a day of learning about various women’s health issues and/or cancers.
The first ‘day’ was held in Placentia, and was so successful that the CSI Program was invited to do similar events in the communities of Riverhead and Ferryland. We heard a lot of positive comments from participants, such as:
“Congratulations on organizing such a successful day! The energy in the room was palpable! So nice to see so many women empowered to maintain good health!”
“I really enjoyed the event. I hope you continue with these. I learned things very important for my own health.”
We reached hundreds of women during these days, and even more impactful, a number of women following these sessions booked Pap tests!
Pap testing is offered by family physicians, nurse practitioners, and front line health-care providers. Across the province, we have over 90 Pap clinics that are open to any woman for a Pap test.
From 2013 to 2015, almost 100 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in the province, and in 2016, Newfoundland and Labrador reported the highest rate of cervical cancer in Canada.
What is encouraging is that we’re finding more cancers at an early stage – where treatments are readily available and accessible. This is one reason why educating women about screening is key to more positive outcomes when it comes to cervical cancer!
For example, did you know that:
- Women who are sexually active should begin Pap testing at the age of 21?
- Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you should have a Pap test every three years?
- Women with abnormal Pap history should continue yearly Pap testing?
Partnerships with community organizations are paramount in helping to raise awareness about Pap testing. Family Resource Centres, community health nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, non-government organizations and churches all help us spread the word about the importance of cancer screening!
When people see the CSI Program posters and promotional items, they talk about it. CSI awareness campaigns are designed to move the disease out of the clinical context, where it is discussed in medical terms, and into mainstream conversation.
And with talk – comes action.
90 per cent preventable. Those are odds you can live with. ■
This story was written by Susan White, regional coordinator for the Avalon region with the Cervical Screening Initiatives Program at Eastern Health.
October 23-29 is Pap Test Awareness Week in Newfoundland and Labrador. To learn more about cervical cancer screening, or to find a Pap test clinic near you, please visit: www.easternhealth.ca/CancerCare.